CONTRACTS TO clean up the UK's stockpile of nuclear waste will soar above the government's £70bn estimate, MPs said last month.
The Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee claimed there was 'considerable uncertainty' on the cost of nuclear decommissioning and clean-up because the recently formed Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has yet to discover the exact nature and quantity of the nuclear material on its sites.
'We are disappointed, but not surprised, that considerable uncertainty still remains in relation to the cost of decommissioning and clean up, ' says the committee's report.
'The legacy of civil nuclear liabilities has been accumulating for 60 years; some of it was created at a time of great military urgency and when the science was less understood; and it is no fault of the NDA that, in its short life, it has been unable to discover the exact nature and quantity of the nuclear material on its sites.'
The report predicts a big rise in the estimated clean-up costs in the next few years.
'The overall quantied cost of £70.2bn seem to us likely to rise signi antly, both as further investigative work is done at the most dif cult sites within Sellaeld and Dounreay, and because the nuclear industry appears to be reluctant to continue with reprocessing of spent fuel while this remains more expensive than buying new stocks of uranium, ' it says.
A study published in July by the government-appointed Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) found that more than a third of the UK is suitable for use as an underground repository for nuclear waste (GE August 2006).
CoRWM claimed underground disposal was the best way of managing the UK's 500,000m 3 of nuclear waste. The committee is expected to publish a list of possible locations later this year.
The British Geological Survey, which conducted the research, said: 'Rather more than 30% of the UK land mass would provide a potentially suitable geological setting for a repository.'
Bill Grose, chairman of the British Tunnelling Society and tunnelling director at consultant Arup, said advances in geotechnics, tunnel design and tunnelling technology over the past 20 years meant more sites could now be considered for a repository than when deep geological disposal was last evaluated.